federal tax lien

What Is A Federal Tax Lien?

A federal tax lien is the government’s legal claim against your property when you neglect or fail to pay a tax debt. The lien protects the government’s interest in all your property, including real estate, personal property and financial assets. A federal tax lien exists after the IRS:

• Puts your balance due on the books (assesses your liability);
• Sends you a bill that explains how much you owe (Notice and Demand for Payment); and
• Neglect or refuse to fully pay the debt on time.
The IRS files a public document, the Notice of Federal Tax Lien, to alert potential creditors and the public that the government has a legal and enforceable interest in your property.


Taxpayers that are unable to pay their tax bill have several options. All is not lost. Taxpayers who can’t pay their tax liability or who create a financial hardship by paying this liability may take advantage of a federal tax program in which they utilize a mechanism known as an “Offer In Compromise” to resolve and settle these tax problems with finality. The Offer in Compromise (or “OIC” in IRS and legal jargon) program is not for everyone and the IRS advises that taxpayers explore all other payment options before submitting an OIC. An experienced tax professional is absolutely essential in all steps of the process of formulating, making, and awaiting the IRS to accept, an OIC.